Genetic Health

The Role of Genetics in Health Image

Do you know the role of genetics in health? While environmental factors and lifestyle choices contribute to many health conditions, heredity plays at least an equal — if not larger — part of many diseases. You may know of one or more genetic health conditions that run in your family due to a genetic mutation.

In these articles, you’ll learn about how to use a DNA testing kit, common genetic health conditions and the importance of genetic markers.

DNA Diagnostic Testing

Through DNA diagnostic testing, you can determine your risk for a particular disease. Coupled with your family’s medical history, this testing can help identify diseases for which you are most at risk. With this information, you may be able to prevent certain disorders or better manage a disorder you already have. Learn more about DNA diagnostic testing.

Using a DNA Testing Kit

You can also collect your DNA sample at home using a DNA testing kit. After taking a sample from your cheek using a cotton swab — a quick, painless procedure — you send the sample to a special lab for analysis. Learn how to request and use a DNA testing kit.

Inherited Genetic Health Conditions

Many diseases — like diabetes, arthritis and certain types of cancer — have a strong genetic link. This means that if a relative has the disorder, you have an increased risk of having it yourself. If you don’t know your family’s medical history, determine your risk for genetic health conditions by getting screened.

Pros and Cons of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is predictive, meaning that it can identify a genetic mutation that may lead to genetic health conditions. However, many conditions — such as heart disease — arise from a combination of genetics and environmental factors. While a DNA testing kit can identify your risk of developing a disease, it can’t tell you this for certain. Learn the pros and cons of genetic testing.

Genetic Markers

Genetic markers are DNA sequences or genes associated with particular traits and can be traced to a specific location on a chromosome. Certain genetic markers are associated with certain health conditions, and screening technicians are trained to look for these markers during genetic testing.

Privacy, Health and Genetics

Many people are concerned that employers or insurance companies could use the information from their genetic screening to discriminate against them. The 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act protects people from this kind of unfair treatment. However, concerns still abound regarding genetic testing, privacy and health.

Genetic Screening Risks and Limitations

Although genetic screening is meant to promote good health, it may have adverse effects. Your results may be troubling; if you’re perfectly healthy, finding out that you’re at risk for a potentially deadly disease can be emotionally devastating. And although you can take steps to prevent a disease for which you are at risk, a genetic test can’t guarantee this. Learn the risks and limitations of DNA diagnostic testing.

Athletic Ability and Genetics

Genetics aren’t solely responsible for undesirable traits. One skill that may have a genetic link is athletic ability. A baby born into a family of athletes is very likely to also have athletic skill. Learn how traits like this are often due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetics and Child Development

Some disorders affecting child development, like Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome, are linked solely to a genetic mutation, while others are believed to be at least partially linked to genetics, such as attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Learn how a genetic mutation may affect your child’s development.

Resources

Genetics Home Reference. (2010). Genetics and health. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/Resources/health.

Lab Tests Online. (2010). The universe of genetic testing. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/features/genetics-10.html.

National Human Genome Research Institute. (2010). Genetic testing. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.genome.gov/10002335#al-2.